On February 3, 2017, Republican Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida has sponsored H.R.861 – To terminate the Environmental Protection Agency.1)https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/861
There is no text or summary of this bill available to the public yet. It has been sent to committees. This bill coupled with President Trump’s appointment of Scott Pruitt to head the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) poses a serious threat to our environment and health. Over 400 former EPA employees have signed a letter to the Senate condemning Pruitt.
Mr. Pruitt’s record and public statements strongly suggest that he does not share the vision or agree with the underlying principles of our environmental laws. Mr. Pruitt has shown no interest in enforcing environmental laws, a critically important function for EPA. While serving as Oklahoma’s top law enforcement officer, Mr. Pruitt issued more than 50 press releases celebrating lawsuits to overturn EPA standards to limit mercury emissions from power plants, reduce smog levels in cities and regional haze in parks, clean up the Chesapeake Bay and control greenhouse gas emissions. In contrast, none of Mr. Pruitt’s many press releases refer to any action he has taken to enforce environmental laws or to actually reduce pollution. This track record likely reflects his disturbing decision to close the environmental enforcement unit in his office while establishing a new litigation team to challenge EPA and other federal agencies.2)http://www.environmentalintegrity.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Pruitt-letter-from-EPA-veterans-2017.02.06.pdf
The EPA was founded in 1970 under the Nixon administration. The American public’s environmental consciousness was growing as a result of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, the first Earth Day, and the Cuyahoga River in Ohio catching on fire.3)https://www.epa.gov/history
Now that Pruitt is at the top post of the EPA, there is grave cause for concern.
Just what does America look like with a dismantled EPA?
If we look back in history, we find examples.
The Cuyahoga River in Ohio had caught on fire at least a dozen times before it caught the attention of the nation in 1969. Sparks from a passing train ignited oil-soaked debris floating down the river. Prior to the EPA’s formation and the Clean Water Act, American rivers were dumping grounds for industry with no regard for human health. TIME reports:
Aside from the Cuyahoga, in which there were no signs of visible life — “not even low forms such as leeches and sludge worms that usually thrive on wastes” — unregulated dumping befouled nearly every river that passed through a major metropolitan area. The Potomac, TIME noted, left Washington “stinking from the 240 million gallons of wastes that are flushed into it daily” while “Omaha’s meatpackers fill the Missouri River with animal grease balls as big as oranges.”4)http://time.com/3921976/cuyahoga-fire/
Do we want to go back to orange sized animal grease balls floating down our rivers? Is this when America was great?
A few examples of what the EPA has done for all Americans in its first decade 1970-1980:
- DDT, a carcinogenic pesticide featured in Silent Spring, is banned in the US, but it is still present in our food chain and the environment.
- “Clean Air Act of 1970: Congress authorizes EPA to set national air quality, auto emission, and anti-pollution standards. The standards led to the production of the catalytic converter in 1973 by New Jersey’s Engelhard Corporation. In its first 20 years, the Clean Air Act prevented more than 200,000 premature deaths by significantly reducing the presence of lead, sulfur dioxide and other harmful pollutants in the air.”
- Restricts lead-based and gasolines paints.
- Regulates public drinking water. Requires testing and notification if public drinking water does not meet EPA standards.
- “Suspension of two lawn and garden pesticides, heptachlor and chlordane, after the chemicals caused cancer in mice and rats. New studies that led to Train’s decision revealed that about 75% of dairy and meat products in the United States contained the chemicals and that virtually every person in the U.S. had residue of the chemical in their bodies, including unborn babies.”
- In response to Love Canal, the Superfund Act authorized the “EPA to identify parties responsible for contamination of sites and compel the parties to clean up the site.”5)https://www.epa.gov/history
The Trump administration plans to cut $800 million from the EPA’s budget.6)http://www.nationofchange.org/2017/02/05/heres-defunded-epa-means-america/ President Trump himself has claimed climate change is a hoax and made campaign promises to abolish or “leave a little bit” of this 47-year-old agency. He has tweeted he wants clean air and clean water, but this is not possible with a defunded EPA. Pruitt is also a climate denier.7)http://www.commondreams.org/news/2017/02/02/scott-pruitt-advances-trump-planning-abolish-epa-entirely
Even with our current regulations, the EPA has failed to protect our drinking water on several occasions. From Flint, Michigan to Elk River, West Virginia recent history has taught us prevention is easier than the consequences of environmental catastrophes.8)http://www.nationofchange.org/2017/02/05/heres-defunded-epa-means-america/
This important government agency is threatened by the Trump administration and the Republican-dominated Congress. It is reported that President Trump will take actions to “dismantle” the EPA.9)https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/02/donald-trump-plans-to-abolish-environmental-protection-agency10)http://www.commondreams.org/news/2017/02/02/scott-pruitt-advances-trump-planning-abolish-epa-entirely Congress may do even more with H.R. 861.
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